Clutch free throws by Chang Chih-fong, two in the closing seconds of regulation time that forced the game into overtime, and two with under a minute to play in overtime that gave his team a four-point lead, helped the Dacin Tigers beat the Yulon Dinos 89-88 in Game One of the first-round playoffs action at the Taipei Physical Education College Gymnasium on Friday evening.
The fourth-year guard, known more for his outstanding defensive ability, more than made up for top scorer Tien Lei's mediocre performance by hitting the late-game free throws to give the fourth-seeded Tigers an important victory over the top-seeded Dinos in the best-of-five first-round series.
"Everyone thought we didn't have a chance against these guys [Dinos] tonight, even though we beat them twice during the regular season, boy, were they wrong!" said Chang after the game.
PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES
His Tigers hung tough with the Dinos for most of the first half and actually took leads as large as seven points during the third quarter on the strength of four three-pointers by Wang Chih-chuin, before letting the Dinos back in the game on a 10-2 run in the fourth quarter.
Early foul trouble by Dinos center Tseng Wen-ding played a key part in the contest as the anchor of the Yulon interior defense was forced to play a much more conservative game due to three quick fouls during the first quarter. He would eventually foul out of the game in overtime along with Chen "Airman" Hsin-an and Chen Chih-chung to leave just two starters against the Dacin starting five in the extra session.
Poor shooting from behind the three-point line placed a tremendous burden on the already-shorthanded Tigers offense that was missing its speedy point guard Su Yi-jeh who suffered a season-ending arm injury last month.
But they were able to overcome the problem by outrebounding the defending champs by a 46-to-36 margin, including 15 off the offensive glass to help them win.
Hunters 81, Taiwan Beer 86
Holding top Videoland Hunters scorer Jonathan Sanders to just 14 points and eleven rebounds, well short of his regular-season average of 23.5 and 16.3 respectively, Taiwan Beer snuck past the second-seeded Hunters for an 86-81 win on Friday in their postseason-opener.
Stellar defensive play by Taiwan Beer's Ho Sho-cheng, who kept Sanders in check, and more importantly off the offensive glass throughout the game, helped his side to victory.
"I knew someone would always back me up if he [Sanders] beat me, so that made it a lot easier for me," Ho said after the game.
With Sanders well contained, the beer crew managed to open a 24-18 lead after the opening quarter before settling for a 42-39 halftime lead.
Four three's by Hunters shooting guard Yang Tseh-yi in the third quarter alone reduced a once-six point Taiwan Beer lead to a deuce in the closing minute of the quarter.
The Hunters actually went ahead to end the quarter on Lee Chi-yi's buzzer-beating three from the top of the key but that was the extent that they had control of the game as the ir opponents mustered a 13-3 run midway through the fourth quarter and held on for the win.
Like Tien Lei in the Tigers' win over the Dinos, top Taiwan Beer scorer Lin "the Beast" did not have a good game shooting from the floor as he came up empty on all eight shots taken from behind the three-point line. But the Beast made up for it by dishing out a game-high five assists along with ten rebounds to contribute toward the impressive win.
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